- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A death-row inmate who was convicted in the 2001 slaying of a newspaper carrier will not get a new trial, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Thursday, upholding a lower court’s previous decision.

In 2008, the state Supreme Court granted Marlon Howell a hearing in Union County Circuit Court on his challenge to the testimony of a prosecutor’s witness and arguments that his attorney didn’t do a good job.

A state judge threw out Howell’s arguments last year, denying Howell the new trial he sought.

Howell, now 34, was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for the fatal shooting of David Pernell during a robbery. Pernel was a retired postman who delivered the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. He was killed after being flagged down on a city street in New Albany.

Howell had argued that the key prosecution witness, Charles Rice, sought to recant his identification of Howell as the shooter, only to withdraw the statement in another affidavit.

Howell’s defense team said a jail lineup was tainted because he had no attorney present, among other issues. They also argued that his trial attorney failed to investigate or conduct a pretrial interview of another prosecution witness.

Supreme Court Justice Josiah Dennis Coleman said Thursday that Rice’s testimony at trial was credible and his attempt to recant was unreliable.

Coleman said Howell waived his right to an attorney the day before the lineup during an interview with investigators and had not been formally charged with capital murder when the lineup took place. Court records show Rice identified Howell as the man who attacked the newspaper carrier.

“Howell was not under arrest for capital murder at the time of the lineup, and he was not entitled to counsel at the pre-indictment lineup. Regardless, even if there was error, it was harmless because Rice’s in-court identification of Howell was based on his opportunity to view Howell at the time of the crime, not based on the lineup,” Coleman wrote.

Coleman said the court found no fault in the way Howell’s attorney handled the case before or during the trial.

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